German Lessons


Getting German Citizenship

The German media has been reporting a sharp rise in applications from Brits in Germany seeking German citizenship, because as long as their application is made before Britain officially leaves the European Union, they will be able to retain their British passport. Once the Brexit is finalized, however, British citizens applying for German citizenship may have to give up their British citizenship to do so—an understandably difficult decision. 


Yabla is introducing the first installment of a new six part series this week with sample questions from the naturalization test required by the German government. The test is drawn from a total of 310 questions, ten of them specific to the state in which you are applying. But don't worry, they randomly draw a total of only 33 questions from the 310 for the test, and you only have to get 17 (or about 52%) of them correct. Today we can go through some German terms related to citizenship issues.


Heute geht es um den deutschen Einbürgerungstest.
Today we're talking about the German naturalization test.
Caption 2, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


From der Bürger (citizen) you get die Einbürgerung (naturalization). 


Wann kann in Deutschland eine Partei verboten werden? -Wenn sie gegen die Verfassung kämpft.
When can a political party become banned in Germany? -When it strives against the constitution.
Captions 6-7, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


Was ist mit dem deutschen Grundgesetz vereinbar? -Die Geldstrafe.
What is compatible with the German constitution? -Monetary penalties [fines].
Captions 17-18, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


Here you see two common words for the constitution: die Verfassung and das Grundgesetz. In Germany, the concept of freedom of speech is, unlike that in the United States, defined in the constitution to forbid any speech which is hostile to democratic ideals or expresses hatred of people based on their nationality, race, or religion. The latter is a felony crime called die Volksverhetzung or "incitement to hatred" in the official government translation. It is also a serious crime in Germany to give a so-called Hitler salute with the right arm upraised, even in jest. A Canadian tourist found this out the hard way some years ago and had to pay a stiff fine.


Was ist Deutschland nicht? -Eine Monarchie.
What is Germany not? -A monarchy.
Captions 9-10, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest


If you didn't know that German isn't a monarchy, you may find this test difficult, but for the rest of you it should be pretty easy. Don't forget to learn the 16 Bundesländer


Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German for terms like der Staatsbürger or der Flüchtling to find videos with migration themes. You can also take a sample test with all 310 questions on the website of the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge

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Goodbye Great Britain and Other Exits

The referendum in Great Britain to leave the European Union was nicknamed "Brexit," a portmanteau of the words "Britain" and "exit." The same nickname was used in Germany. Let's take a moment to divert our attention from that event and focus instead on the different ways we can say "exit" in German. 


Wir können die nächste Ausfahrt nehmen oder noch weiterfahren.    
We can take the next exit or keep on driving.
Caption 7, Deutsche Bands: Luxuslärm


Die Ausfahrt is the most commonly seen translation of "exit" and is usually used in reference to the offramp of a roadway.


Wo ich reinkomme, geht man raus.
Where I enter, they exit.
Caption 43, Frank Zander: Hier kommt Kurt


This is "exit" in its simple slang form of rausgehen, or "to go out."


Und zeigst nur stumm auf die Ausgangstür.
And just point silently to the exit door.
Caption 10, Herbert Grönemeyer: Was soll das?


Der Ausgang is usually meant as the point where you leave a building.


Brüller, Lacher, Brüller, Abgang, mehr ist nicht zu machen.
Big laugh, laugher, big laugh, exit, there isn't more to do.
Caption 19, Ab durch die Heimat: 4 Comedians unterwegs im Südwesten


Der Abgang is the simple act of leaving or the act of leaving a specific sphere of activity. It can also mean the person who has left, as in "the one who left," although the more common terms are der Abgänger or die Abgängerin. Der Abgang is still occasionally used in medical and military circles to refer to death.


Das sind alles Leute, die eigentlich nichts weiter verbrochen haben,    
als dass sie einen Ausreiseantrag gestellt haben.

These are all people who actually violated nothing more than that they submitted an exit visa application.
Caption 27-28, DDR zum Anfassen: Ganz tief im Westen


Der Ausreiseantrag or "exit visa application" uses the word die Ausreise for "exit," which on its own would usually be translated as "departure." Hopefully the citizens of the United Kingdom —possibly soon consisting only of non-EU countries England and Wales — will not be required to file an Ausreiseantrag in order to leave what remains of the UK. It is nearly certain, however, that they will now have to get a residence permit (die Aufenthaltserlaubnis) to live in the EU. 


Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German to see the different ways that terms for "exit" such as der Abgang, die Ausfahrt, and der Ausgang are used in a real world context.

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Smack Dab in the Middle

In English, a person can be described as standing in the middle of the sidewalk in the middle of the day, and whether you are talking about place or time, the phrase "in the middle of" is correct. In German, however, there are two expressions: mitten im (or mitten in der for feminine nouns) and mitten am (mitten an der for feminine nouns). In most cases, whether discussing time or place, the phrase mitten im (in der) is used, whether for time of the year:


Vor langer Zeit mitten im eisigsten Winter…
A long time ago in the middle of the iciest winter…
Caption 5, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Schneewittchen


Or for place: 


Ich finde das eine wichtige Stelle, mitten in der Stadt.
I think it is an important place, in the middle of the city.
Captions 25-26, Holocaust-Gedenktag: Gedenkstätte am Michelsberg 


The phrase mitten am (mitten an der) is used less frequently but in very specific contexts. For place, mitten am is used primarily when something is physically located on a place. In the following example, you can see why mitten im would sound wrong, as it would suggest that the kiosk is inside Friedberger Platz rather than on it: 


Neben mir steht der Besitzer von dem schönen Kiosk mitten am Friedberger Platz.
Next to me stands the owner of the nice kiosk in the middle of Friedberger Platz.
Captions 1-2, Frankfurt: Der Friedberger Platz


Generally you wouldn't say mitten am Friedberger Platz anyway, you would simply say auf Friedberger Platz. If the kiosk were located on the edge of the square, you would say an Friedberger Platz.


When used with period of day terms, it is more common to use mitten am than mitten imMitten am Morgen (in the middle of the morning); Mitten am Nachmittag (in the middle of the afternoon); or Mitten am Tag (in the middle of the day, or "in broad daylight"). When discussing nighttime, however, the mitten in der phrase is standardly used: Mitten in der Nacht (in the middle of the night). In general, mitten does not have any influence on the above usage of the prepositions am or in der, as they are also am Morgen and in der Nacht etc. when used without the word mitten.


Further Learning
Look for further examples of mitten im, mitten in der, mitten am, and mitten an der on Yabla German to see these phrases used in a real-world context.

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German Elisions: Dropping the -e

There is a tendency in spoken German to use shorter forms of words. This is something that is especially noticeable in the first person present tense of verbs: ich geh, ich fahr, ich komm, etc. instead of ich gehe, ich fahre, ich komme etc. While the former should not be used in any kind of formal writing and would certainly lose you points on an accredited German test, they are nevertheless considered standard German and not slang or dialect. 


This dropping of the letter is called an elision. The basis for dropping the -e above is die Sprachökonomie or "speech economy," a positive description of which is "the improvement of communication through simpler modes of speaking." A less flattering motivation for shortening words might be "simple laziness."


Since the dropping of the -e in first person present tense verbs is standard (though not formally correct) German, the use of an apostrophe to notate the missing -e is not only unnecessary, it is incorrect. According to Duden: Ein solches nicht vorhandenes e wird nicht durch einen Apostroph ersetzt. However, it is Yabla's responsibility to teach formally correct German, and it is a priority to avoid giving the impression that ich komm is formally correct. Therefore, Yabla has decided to let the German learner know that a letter is missing from the formally correct version by using an apostrophe to indicate the missing -e: ich komm'


Here are some examples of elisions on Yabla German with the missing -e marked with an apostrophe. Because of the apostrophe, you learn that the word is not formally correct and requires the missing letter to be formally correct. Remember, however, that the formally correct German way of writing the elision is actually without the apostrophe! 


Nee, ich komm’ aus der Pforzheimer Gegend.
No, I come from the area around Pforzheim.
Caption 33, Unterwegs mit Cettina: an der Rheinfähre


Ich fahr' eigentlich auch total gerne Schlittschuh.
I actually also really like to go ice skating.
Caption 3, Diane: am Weihnachtsmarkt


Ich geh' bloß gern nach Italien in Urlaub.
I only like to go to Italy on vacation.
Caption 32, Fasching: mit Cettina


Further Learning
Read this article about die Sprachökonomie and find more examples of elisions on Yabla German to see these words used in a real-world context.

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Yet More German Pseudo-Anglicisms

There are quite a few English words that have been adopted by the German language but given different meanings or used in different contexts. These are called pseudo-anglicisms, with German speakers sometimes re-importing what they mistakenly think are English words into their non-native English, often with unintentionally humorous or incomprehensible results. This is the third installment in this series.


Geh und check sein Handy
Go and check his mobile phone!
Caption 50, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor


If something is "handy" in English then it is convenient, but German has taken the convenience of the cellular telephone and turned it into the pseudo-anglicism das Handy.


Public Viewing oder echte Stadion-Atmosphäre, der Übergang ist fließend.
Outdoor screening or genuine stadium atmosphere, the transition is seamless.
Caption 2, Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft: Deutschland - Portugal 4:0 


The English words "public" and "viewing" placed together as "public viewing" make sense as something that is accessible to be viewed by the public, but the German pseudo-anglicism das Public Viewing refers very specifically to a live outdoor screening of a sporting event.


Gibt's irgendwelche No-Gos auf dem roten Teppich für Sie?
Are there any taboos on the red carpet for you?
Caption 42, Bambi-Verleihung: Stars auf dem roten Teppich


A "no-go" in English is an event that has been cancelled, or in the case of a "no-go area" someplace that is off limits, but in German das No-Go somehow came to mean a taboo.


Further Learning
Review earlier Yabla newsletters German Pseudo-Anglicisms and More German Pseudo-Anglicisms and look for more examples on Yabla German to see how these words are used in a real-world context.

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Pronouncing the Letters V-W and B-D

The German letters V and W can cause some confusion for native English speakers, since the German W is pronounced like the English V, and the German V is pronounced like the English F! One easy way to keep them straight is the fact that not only are they next to each other in the alphabet, but they also form the abbreviation of the auto manufacturer Volkswagen, or VW — pronounced "fau vay" in German. Practice saying VW to yourself, emphasizing the F sound in "fau" and the V sound in "vay."


Ein Ford oder ein VW oder was?
A Ford or a VW or what?
Caption 42, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Weil oder obwohl


The word "Volkswagen" itself has both letters V and W in it, so practice pronouncing it properly to keep the pronunciation of the letters straight: folks vah gen. 


It's worth noting that in many loanwords like Vase, vage, Universität, Verb and the like, the pronunciation of the German V is the same as the English V!


The German letters B and D at the beginning of a word are pronounced like the hard versions of the letters in English, as in "blue," and "dark." But when these letters are at the end of a German word, they soften up considerably. 


Das Grab, der Stein, die Blumen.
The grave, the stone, the flowers.
Caption 18, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern


The letter B in Grab should not sound like a hard English B, but rather like a soft P: "grap."


Keiner kam auf die Idee, das mit der Hand zu machen.
The idea of doing it by hand didn't occur to anyone.
Caption 22, Erfinder: Nie erfundene Erfindungen


The letter D in Hand should not sound like the hard English D, but like a soft T: "hant."


Further Learning
Make a list of German words ending in the letters B and D, and find examples of them being pronounced by native speakers in a real world context on Yabla German.

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The German Alphabet and Spelling Alphabet

Most of you probably already know the German alphabet. But for cases where somebody might misunderstand you, for example stating your email address to somebody on the telephone, it is good to know the German spelling alphabet (die Buchstabiertafel) as well. That is the alphabet you hear in military jargon, such as (in English) "Alfa Bravo Charlie" for ABC. 


Here is a quick review with approximate English pronunciations of the letters of the German alphabet, which consists of the same standard 26 Latin letters as the English alphabet plus ä, ö, ü, and ß. 


A = ah; B = bay; C = tsay; D = day; E = ay; F = eff; G = gay; H = hah; I = eeh; J = yot; K = kah; L = ell; M = em; N = en; O = oh; P = pay; Q = koo; R = air; S = es; T = tay; U = ooh; V = fow; W = vay; X = iks; Y = oopsilohn; Z = tset; Ä = like the "e" in melon; Ö = like the "i" in girl; Ü = like the "u" in lure; ß = ess-tset


For clarity when spelling your name or an email address on the telephone, it is not a bad idea to learn die Buchstabiertafel too, since letters like B, T, and P can easily get confused. 


A = Anton; B = Berta; C = Cäsar; D = Dora; E = Emil; F = Friedrich; G = Gustav; H = Heinrich; I = Ida; J = Julius; K = Kaufmann; L = Ludwig; M = Martha; N = Nordpol; O = Otto; P = Paula; Q = Quelle; R = Richard; S = Samuel; T = Theodor; U = Ulrich; V = Viktor; W = Wilhelm; X = Xanthippe; Y = Ypsilon; Z = Zacharius; Ä = Ärger; Ö = Ökonom; Ü = Übermut; ß = Esszet


My name is Miller, and Germans nearly always think I am saying "Müller," so for clarity I often say "Miller mit M und I, also Martha Ida."


It helps too, when giving somebody an address or telephone number, to pronounce the number 2 like zwo instead of zwei, because otherwise zwei and drei can be easily confused: 


Die Oberfläche von „Kepler vier fünf zwo B“, so der Name des Himmelskörpers…
The surface of "Kepler four five two B," such is the name of the celestial body…
Caption 11, DW-Nachrichten: Erde hat einen „Cousin“


Further Learning
Listen to Sissi sing the ABC Song and practice spelling out your name and email address using the German Buchstabiertafel. You can also find other examples of people using zwo for the number 2 on Yabla German.

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When "nicht schlecht" is not "not bad"

This week's fascinating new video Trickdiebe am Frankfurter Flughafen uses a slang expression that is potentially confusing, in that its use of nicht would seem to contradict what the expression actually means. 


Beim Präventionstag staunt so mancher nicht schlecht, worauf man alles achten muss.


The first impression might be, since the negation nicht is in the sentence, that some people are not amazed. But in fact, the phrase nicht schlecht staunen in this context means nicht wenig staunen: "not a little amazed" or "quite amazed."


On crime prevention day some are quite amazed at all the things you have to watch for.
Captions 7-8, Trickdiebe am Frankfurter Flughafen: Die Bundespolizei klärt auf 


And another example on Yabla German:


Sie zog den Vorhang beiseite und staunte nicht schlecht.
She pulled the curtain aside and was quite amazed.
Captions 41-42, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das kleine Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern


This is the only example that I am aware of in German where the phrase nicht schlecht is used in a possibly confusing way. Even the meaning of the slang phrase nicht schlecht, Herr Specht is pretty obvious in context: "Well done!" The phrase can also be used ironically if somebody has made a mistake or performed badly. Herr Specht probably does not refer to der Specht (woodpecker) here, it is rather just a rhyming word that adds emphasis to the phrase, kind of along the lines of the English catchphrase "no way, José!"


The verb staunen also has some other slang or idiomatic phrases associated with it, such as Bauklötze staunen (be very surprised) and aus dem Staunen nicht herauskommen (not cease to be amazed). 


Further Learning
Read this interesting article about the use and Berlin origins of Bauklötze staunen, and search on Yabla German to see staunen and nicht schlecht used in other real world contexts.

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Mega-German Mini-Lesson

The slang word "mega" means "big" and it comes from the Greek word megas (μέγας), which means "great." Put "mega" in front of anything and it's instantly much larger than what you started with. As the Collins Dictionary rather stodgily puts it, "Young people sometimes use 'mega' in front of nouns in order to emphasize that the thing they are talking about is very good, very large, or very impressive."


As luck would have it, this mega fabulous word "mega" is also used in German! 


Und die Clubs sind natürlich megawichtig.
And the clubs are, of course, mega important.
Caption 19, Live-Entertainment-Award: Glamouröse Preisverleihung


Am zweiten Jahrestag der Megapleite sind in Frankfurt erneut Menschen auf die Straße gegangen.
On the second anniversary of the mega-crash, the people in Frankfurt took to the streets again.
Caption 6: Finanzkrise: Die Lehman-Pleite


Further Learning
You probably won't find "mega" in the works of William Shakespeare, nor will you impress your academic friends by slipping the word into the conversation, but a bit of slang in your spoken German might make you sound just that much more like a native speaker. Read this hilarious article about the 1980s origins of the word as English slang and find some more examples of "mega" on Yabla German to see how it is used in a real-world context.

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Six Ways to Say "Orange" in German

There are a lot of options for describing something as being the color orange in German, though not all of them may be quite correct in formal writing! The standard form, and easiest to remember since it is identical to English, is the German adjective orange


Ein Tiger ist ein Tier, das orange ist. 
A tiger is an animal that is orange.
Captions 17-18, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz


Used together with the noun, you could say ein oranger Tiger or ein oranges Tier. Okay, a tiger is actually orange and black, but eventually the student in this video gets it right! 


A second and third adjective that we could use is orangefarben, or less commonly orangenfarben, meaning "orange-colored." In that case our imaginary tiger—missing its black stripes—would be ein orangefarbener or orangenfarbener Tiger. Add to that some other similar fourth and fifth "orange" adjectives and you have ein orangefarbiger or orangenfarbiger Tiger. In the latter, orangefarbig is more common than orangenfarbig.


The sixth and last way to express the color orange is very common in spoken German, but according to the Duden dictionary, orangen is actually slang usage: 


Ich glaube, am besten gefällt mir nicht die orangene Farbe.
I think I don't like the orange color best.
Caption 19, „Mini-Marxe”: In Trier


Der orangene PKW wird auf vierzig Kilometer pro Stunde beschleunigt.
The orange passenger car is accelerated to forty kilometers per hour.
Caption 16, Crashtest: Fahrradfahrer profitieren kaum vom Fußgängerschutz am Auto


Further Learning
Orange, orangefarben, orangenfarben, orangefarbig, orangenfarbig, orangen: Find some more examples of "orange" and other colors on Yabla German to see how they are used in a real-world context.

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Get Out of My Peel!

This week's exciting finale of the Pfefferkörner episode has a German idiom that could come across a bit as being a bit odd when translated directly:


Ja, wahrscheinlich wollte er ihr freiwillig nicht mehr von der Pelle rücken.
Yes, probably he didn't want to go away from the peel of his own accord.
Caption 22, Die Pfefferkörner: Cybermobbing


So just what is the Pelle and why didn't he want to get away from it? The word die Pelle is traceable in German as far back as the 12th century, originally as the skin of a wurst or sausage. Later it took on the same meaning as "peel" in English for the peel of a potato or other vegetable. Later on, die Pelle came to take on the idiomatic usage suggesting human skin, much in the same way as the slang usage of der Pelz (fur) is used for human skin. So does this mean that he didn't want to "get away from her skin?"


Man muss anderen Menschen sehr auf die Pelle rücken, um die zu schminken.
You need to really push people on the peel to do their make-up.
Caption 31, Kosmetik: Make-up-Artist-Schule


The more common expression is jemandem auf die Pelle rücken, literally to "move on someone's peel (or skin)."  What it means is to get too close, to be too intimate, or to invade their personal space. A similar idiom in English might be "to get in their face." 


So what then does von der Pelle rücken mean? The best translation is probably "to leave somebody alone," as in the idiomatic expression "get out of my face." So we could translate the first example above as "Yes, probably he didn't want to leave her alone of his own accord."


Another similar idiom is jemandem auf der Pelle sitzen (or liegen), which means to bother someone with your continual presence, a similar meaning to the English idiom "to get on someone's nerves."


Further Learning
Learn more about this expression in this article, and get into the detailed German explanation on Duden. Look for an example of der Pelz on Yabla German in its slang usage to see how it's used in a real-world context.

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More German Pseudo-Anglicisms

There are a number of English words that have been adopted by the German language but given different meanings or used in different contexts. These are called pseudo-anglicisms, and sometimes lead to German speakers re-importing what they mistakenly think are English words into their non-native English, often with unintentionally humorous or incomprehensible results. 


Wo man seinen Sound aufnehmen kann und den dann wieder abrufen kann, ohne Boxen.
Where you can record your sound and then can access it again without speakers.
Captions 32-34, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Musikmesse in Frankfurt


Die Box is short for die Lautsprecherbox, which means "speaker" or "loudspeaker." A native English speaker might be confused, however, if somebody told him his "boxes" are too loud.


Carmen Spindler leitet nicht nur ein Fitnessstudio.    
Carmen Spindler doesn't just run a gym.
Caption 2, Bodybuilderinnen: Lieber zart als muskulös


Another acceptable spelling of this word is das Fitness-Studio, which makes the English source more obvious. It's pretty clear what "fitness studio" means, but to English ears it sounds like an unnecessarily verbose word for "gym."


Ich hab' ihr schon dreimal auf die Mailbox gesprochen, aber nichts.    
I've already left three messages on her voicemail, but nothing.
Caption 37, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern


If somebody told you they were "talking to your mailbox," you'd think maybe it's time they seek professional psychological help. But in German, die Mailbox is just your voicemail or answering machine. 


Further Learning
Review an earlier Yabla newsletter about pseudo-anglicisms and look for more examples on Yabla German to see how these words are used in a real-world context.

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Adjective Declensions: Definite Articles

It's sometimes not a bad idea to make sure some of that "old knowledge" is still accurate, so let's get back to basics: adjective declensions with definite articles. To make it as easy as possible, remember the following three rules for adjective endings:


1. All adjectives in the singular nominative case end in -e, regardless of noun gender. Here is an example with the singular masculine nominative:


Der alte Minister ging in den Saal.
The old minister went into the hall.
Caption 37, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Des Kaisers neue Kleider


2. All adjectives in the dative or genitive cases, as well as all adjectives in plural form, end in -en regardless of the noun's gender. Here is an example with the plural genitive: 


Der Kaufmann verbrachte die Nacht in einem der schönen Schlafräume.
The Merchant spent the night in one of the beautiful bedrooms.
Captions 25-26, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Schöne und das Biest


3. This is the hard one: Adjectives for masculine nouns in the singular accusative case end in -en, but adjectives for feminine and neuter nouns in the singular accusative case end in -e. Here is an example with the single masculine accusative:


So gibt es hier die elektrische Gitarre für den abgebrühten Rockstar.
Thus there is the electric guitar here for the jaded rock star.
Caption 2, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Musikmesse in Frankfurt


If the noun above had been feminine (or neuter), it would have dropped the -n: ...für die abgebrühte Musikerin.


Further Learning
There is a system for remembering adjective endings that many people find easy to remember called the Oklahoma — see if it works for you. (A special hat tip to Yabla subscriber Mike S. for that!) You can also search for some of your favorite adjectives on Yabla German and review the ways the adjectives end in the different cases with different noun genders.

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Compounds of Spring

It may not be exactly warm out yet in old Berlin, but Frühling is definitely in the air. The sun has been out more than usual and we're starting to see some buds on the bushes and trees! Let's take a look at some compound nouns that can be formed from the German word for "spring."


Vielmehr sollten die Tiere jetzt darauf achten, dass ihnen die Frühlingsgefühle nicht durchgehen.
Instead, the animals now ought to take heed that these spring feelings don't get the best of them.
Captions 43-44, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Frühling im Zoo


Erst ab Mai bekommen sie hier oben Frühlingsgefühle.
Not until May do they get spring fever up here.
Caption 46, Alpenseen, Kühle Schönheiten


Das Frühlingsgefühl is a compound noun made by joining der Frühling with das Gefühl. In the first example, it is translated directly as "spring feeling," and in the second case more literarily as "spring fever."


Compounds can also be made from der Frühling relating to specific times of day: 


Es ist ein wunderschöner Frühlingsmorgen heute.
It is a wonderfully beautiful spring morning today.
Caption 2, Berlin: Eva im Viktoriapark


Leopardeneis und Vanilleeis, ein Traum für einen sonnigen Frühlingsnachmittag.
Leopard ice cream and vanilla ice cream, a dream for a sunny spring afternoon.
Caption 46, Eis: Eiskalte Leidenschaft


Or about time in a more general sense: 


Frühlingszeit ist Fahrradzeit.
Springtime is bike time.
Caption 1, Fahrrad: Frühjahrs-Check


Die Frankfurter haben nach dem sonnigen Wochenende auch heute die ersten Frühlingstage am Mainufer genossen.
The residents of Frankfurt have, after the sunny weekend, enjoyed the first days of spring on the shore of the Main today too.
Captions 4-5, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Der Frühling ist da


Further Learning
Watch the above videos on Yabla German to help get you into the mood for spring and improve your German too! Then check out this list of compound words that can be made from der Frühling. Don't forget to get outside and soak up a little bit of sunshine! 

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Von wegen: more than just "no way!"

A caption in this weeks' latest installment of the Pfefferkörner kid detectives series uses the slang phrase von wegen. Directly translated ("from because of"?), this phrase makes very little sense. Used on its own (Von wegen!), it is a negation to a statement made by somebody else, and means "that is wrong," "not at all," "just the opposite," or just simply "no way!" The Duden dictionary defines von wegen! as auf keinen Fall! Despite some rather crude translations of the phrase on some less than dependable crowd-sourced translation sites, the phrase itself is not vulgar at all, and will only cause offense if the contradiction of a statement is inherently offensive to the person who made it. It's all about context.


It's a bit trickier to translate von wegen when it is used in a sentence and references something specific. Here too, we have to look at the context in which the phrase is used.


Von wegen Kunstunterricht.
It's not true about art class.
Caption 44, Die Pfefferkörner: Cybermobbing


In the above scenario, a girl's parents just found out she was lying when she said that her brother was with friends in an art class. Her father confronts her about her lie using von wegen.


But von wegen can also be used in a dismissive sense: 


Von wegen körperloser Sport, hätte ich meinen Helm doch gebraucht. 
So much for non-contact sports, I still could've made use of my helmet after all.
Caption 46, Ultimate Frisbee: Oli erklärt das Spiel 


The speaker above is talking about the fact that frisbee is generally considered to be a non-contact sport, so he is dismissing this belief as being untrue. And here again as an expression casting doubt on a supposition:


Von wegen Öl geht aus. Die lügen doch, die Ölstaaten.    
As if the oil will run out. But they're lying, the oil states.
Caption 29, Culcha Candela: Schöne neue Welt


There is also, of course, a standard, non-slang use of the phrase von wegen in a sentence: von [genitive noun] wegen means "for [noun] reasons" or "for reasons of [noun]." Some examples: von Amts wegen (for official reasons), von Rechts wegen (for legal reasons), or von Berufs wegen (for professional reasons). 


Further Learning
Read this lively StackExchange article about von wegen and keep your eyes out for examples used in a real world scenario on Yabla German.

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Plural Nouns in German

There is no single standard form for making German nouns plural, but most nouns follow one of ten general patterns. You will instinctively recognize many of them, but others just have to be learned. One thing, at least, is easier: the definite article for German plurals is always die, regardless of the noun's gender.


(1) Add -e:


Ich fahre nach Stuttgart, weil ich meine Freunde treffen will.
I drive to Stuttgart because I want to meet my friends.
Caption 56, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Warum, Weil - Erklärungen


Der Freund, plural die Freunde.


(2) Add -n or -en: 


Und all diese Fragen
And all these questions


Wir sind ja schon immer als Studenten nach Frankfurt gepilgert.
We have indeed always, as students, gone to Frankfurt.
Captions 14 & 37, Museum: für moderne Kunst


Die Frage, plural die Fragen; der Student, plural die Studenten.


(3) Add -e and umlaut:


Wer würde ihren Haferbrei essen und ihre Stühle zerbrechen?
Who would eat their oat porridge and break their chairs?
Caption 55, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Goldlöckchen und die drei Bären


Der Stuhl, plural die Stühle.


(4) Add -er, or umlaut and -er: 


Allein unter seiner Herrschaft waren es weit über hundert... Männer, Frauen, Kinder...    
Alone under his rule, it was far above a hundred... men, women, children...
Caption 22, Geschichte: Hexenverbrennung im Odenwald


Das Kind, plural die Kinder; der Mann, plural die Männer.


(5) Change the main vowel to its umlaut equivalent, but make no change to the noun's ending:


Die drei Brüder waren entsetzt.    
The three brothers were horrified.
Caption 32, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die drei Brüder


Der Bruder, plural die Brüder. This rule applies especially to family members such as der Vater, plural die Väter; die Mutter, plural die Mütter; die Tochter, plural die Töchter.


(6) Add -s:


Das sind wirklich die schlimmsten Autos, die jemals hergestellt wurden.
These are really the worst cars that were ever made.
Caption 36, Der Trabi: Das Kultauto aus dem Osten 


Das Auto, plural die Autos.


(7) Nouns ending in -in, which denote that the person in question is a woman, are always pluralized with -nen: 


Emmi und Johanna sind Freundinnen.
Emmi and Johanna are friends.
Caption 3, Fußball und die Frauenwelt: Der Manndecker


Die Freundin, plural die Freundinnen


(8) Add -ien: 


Man muss die Materialien kennen. 
One must know the materials.
Caption 29, Trendberuf Restauratorin: Eine Lebensaufgabe


Das Material, plural die Materialien


(9) Nouns ending in -nis are pluralized by adding -se: 


Die Ergebnisse des Tages sollen natürlich auch Früchte tragen.
The results of the day should, of course, also bear fruit.
Caption 26, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Nachhaltigkeit


Das Ergebnis, plural die Erebnisse


(10) No change at all: plurals are only distinguished by context or in the case of non-feminine nouns, the use of the definite article die: 


Die Zimmer sind besondere Hingucker.    
The rooms are special eye-catchers [attractions].
Caption 5, Das Ostel: Über Nacht zurück in der DDR


Das Zimmer, plural die Zimmer


Last of all, there are the irregular plurals, which consist of nouns that each have their own unique rules for pluralization. These, of course, must be learned individually. A few examples are der Saal (plural die Säle), das Datum (plural die Daten) das Klima (plural die Klimate), der Bus (plural die Busse).


Further Learning
Read this article about German irregular plurals and look here for an in depth overview of German plurals. Find examples of plurals used in a real world scenario on Yabla German.

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Wake Up and Smell the Roses

In last week's lesson, we discussed how translating animal names directly may not be wise, and the same applies to flora as well. If you were to directly translate the German word for "dandelion" into English, for example, you would wind up with "lion's tooth" (der Löwenzahn). You may be relieved, however, to recall that, as poet Gertrud Stein once famously wrote: "A rose is a rose is a rose." Or as the case may be, eine Rose


With spring hopefully just around the corner, let's take a look at some flower names as they appear in some Yabla German videos. 


Eine Kornblume mit vielen Blütengeschwistern.
A cornflower with many sibling blossoms.
Caption 30, Piggeldy und Frederick: Unkraut


Das Stoppelfeld, die Sonnenblume, schläfrig am Zaun…
The stubbled field, the sunflower, sleepy against the fence…
Captions 8-9, Sabine und Ivana: Gedichte im Bus


Er hat sich die Tulpen überallher bringen lassen. 
He had tulips brought in from all over the world. 
Caption 52, Karlsruher Stadtgeburtstag: die Majolika-Manufaktur


The above are quite easy examples, in that they are either coincidentally correct as direct English translations or, in the case of "tulips," are very similar words. 


Further Learning
Take a look at this list of German flower names and see how many you can guess correctly without having to look them up. Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for the first flower of spring...

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Avoiding Animal Names Confusion

You may come across the names of some unusual animals on German Yabla, especially in some of the nature series like Abenteuer Nordsee. One problem with a lot of animal names is that the German name, if translated directly word for word, may actually be a completely different animal altogether. 

Ein Butterfisch lauert auf Beute.
A rock gunnel fish lies in wait for prey.
Caption 39, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

If you look up der Butterfisch on German Wikipedia, you see that they are part of the Pholidae fish species. If you had translated the name to the English "butterfish," however, you would have wound up mistakenly referring to a completely different fish of the Stromateidae species. A German Butterfisch is in fact a "rock gunnel fish" in English, and an English "butterfish" is a Medusenfisch in German. Looking up an animal's name on German Wikipedia and then going to the equivalent English Wikipedia page (or vice versa, of course) is a good way to be sure you are getting the animals' names right! 

Ein Steinpicker sucht mit seinen Barteln nach Fressbarem.    
A hooknose fish is searching with its barbels for edibles.
Caption 27, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

The German term der Steinpicker may translate directly to something like "stone picker," but in English no such species name exists, and as you see above, it's referring to the "hooknose fish."

Taschenkrebse, die berühmten Helgoländer „Knieper“, brechen Bohrmuscheln aus dem Kalkstein.
Brown crabs, the famous Heligoland pinchers, are breaking false angel wing clams out from the limestone.
Captions 29-30, Abenteuer Nordsee: Unter Riesenhaien und Tintenfischen

The example above has two animals which might easily be misidentified, der Taschenkrebs and die Bohrmuschel, which you might be tempted to translate as "pocket crab" and "drill mussel" respectively, but you'd be wrong if you did: neither of these animal names exist in English! In fact, der Taschenkrebs is a "brown crab" or "edible crab," and die Bohrmuschel is not a mussel at all, but a "false angel wing clam."

Further Learning
Watch or re-watch the Abenteuer Nordsee series on Yabla German and pay special attention to the names of animals. Read more about these animals on German Wikipedia and expand your German vocabulary at the same time!

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